Navigating Allergies in Groups
You know how they say that working out in groups is good for you—that way, you’re motivated by the group? Yeah…that doesn’t really work for allergies. Unless, of course, you are all allergic to something, in which case you’ve got a reality TV show right there; go on, this post will still be here when you get back from pitching to a TV network. For the rest of us, whose friend groups include both allergic people, and un-allergic people, going out or ordering in can sometimes be hard.
It’s easy to fall in the: “just this once” trap. I’ve fallen in that trap many, many, many times. Trust me, it’s never “just this once.” Sometimes it has to do with just wanting to enjoy what everyone else is enjoying, and sometimes it has to do with not wanting to bother anyone. For me, it was the latter.
When I first found out about my numerous allergies, outlined on my About page and in my first blog post, Sneaky Little Allergies, I neither wanted to adapt to them (I was a stubborn sixteen-year-old) nor did I want others to adapt for me. Because I hadn’t had these allergies throughout my entire life, I felt sort of guilty about imposing the new rules and regulations that my body had imposed on me, onto my friends. Silly, I know, but my parents raised me to be a very polite little person. I was that kid who didn’t even ask for water at someone else’s house until it was offered (I know, that’s probably not what my parents had in mind when they taught me to be respectful and polite in the homes of others).
I learned however, that taking care of yourself isn’t done only when you’re by yourself. I was/ am allergic and I had to adapt to it, both alone and in groups.
#1 and almost only rule: Be Clear
When you’re deciding where to go, or what to eat, make sure you let your friends know what you’re allergic to and be clear about it. This sometimes means explaining it, or listing the foods that you cannot eat because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard:
“You can have cupcakes though, right?” No. No I cannot. Gluten means that I cannot have cupcakes, or cake, or cookies, etc. unless it says Gluten free. “Oh… but like, pancakes or cereal right?” No. No, those are out too. “Ohhh…is that why Cheerios has all those gluten free commercials?” Yes. Yes, it is. Very nice powers of deduction. Give yourself a hand.
But in all seriousness, truth is, unless people have those allergies, it’s unlikely that they’ll know what foods you can/cannot have. And that’s fine. Why should they be experts when they don’t need to pay attention to it? That’s why you need to be clear.
This also means being clear with yourself. You get a say in picking the movie, or the restaurant, or the bar, don’t you? Why shouldn’t you have a say in what you’ll be eating. It’s for your own health and you deserve a right to it just as much as anyone in your group. Be clear. Tell yourself: “I will attain myself to my allergy restrictions. I will make sure that everybody knows what those restrictions are.” Then it’s simply a matter of doing it. And do because you have a right to it, and wouldn’t it be great not to wake up with a massive stomach ache, or headache, or whatever it is, the next morning? Yes. Yes it would.